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The Week Ahead in 60 Seconds

Katie Reardon

In the Chamber this week, there will be a Ministerial Statement on Tuesday on the death of Bailey Gwynne, followed by a debate on the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, and a Members' Business debate on Scotland's Veterans. Moving on to Wednesday Communities, Social Security & Equalities Portfolio Questions largely focus on planning, social security, and engagement with charities and the third sector. Later in the afternoon, we’ll have a Ministerial Statement on the Review of Legal Aid, a debate on FGM, and Members' Business on the WASPI Campaign.

On Thursday, General Questions, FMQs and a Members' Business debate on The Awards for Valour (Protection) Bill precede the long-awaited debate on Stage 1 of the Budget (Scotland) Bill. While Derek Mackay previously remarked he was “positive” the Bill would garner the required backing from opposition MSPs, such support has not been forthcoming. The Conservatives have reiterated their opposition to the Bill in in its current form, claiming it would act as a drag on growth, and Kezia Dugdale wrote to the Cabinet Secretary this week committing to table amendments to prevent cuts to local services. Responding to comments from opposition parties, Mr Mackay has suggested there is “more room for manoeuvre” with the Greens and Lib Dems and their respective proposals for tax reform and increased funding for schools, mental health and transport links.

Outside the Chamber, the Draft Climate Change Plan (RPP3) remains high on the Committee agenda this week as Economy, Jobs & Fair Work scrutinise its impact on housing and energy on Tuesday, and Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform taking evidence from Friends of the Earth, WWF Scotland and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation. Similarly on Wednesday, Local Government & Communities will hear evidence on the planning and sustainability of RPP3 before moving on to consider the Scottish Social Housing Charter. The Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee will also be hearing from a range of agricultural witnesses on RPP3 on Wednesday, but not before they take evidence from Humza Yousaf on rail services in Scotland. Following an evidence session with the ScotRail Alliance earlier this month, changes in ScotRail's senior management, and a Ministerial Statement last week, we’ll be expecting some combative exchanges on the ScotRail Improvement Plan and passenger compensation scheme.

Meanwhile, the Health & Sport Committee meets on Tuesday to take evidence from Healthcare Improvement Scotland before considering the Transplantation (Authorisation of Removal of Organs etc.) Bill. On Wednesday, the Education & Skills Committee gives thought to the recommendations of its predecessor Committee while the Finance & Constitution Committee will begin its consideration of the Air Departure Tax (Scotland). On Thursday, the Public Audit Committee will take evidence from John Swinney and the Auditor General on Scottish universities and colleges, while the Social Security Committee hears from Jamie Hepburn on employability and sanctions.

Brexit continues to be the primary focus in Westminster this week, with the Commons debate on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill on Tuesday expected to run until midnight. The debate is likely to remain divisive, as the SNP has promised to table 50 amendments and Jeremy Corbyn has indicated that it would “impossible” for members of the shadow cabinet to remain in post if they rebelled against his three-line whip on the triggering of Article 50. The Bill is projected to clear the Commons by Wednesday 8th February, moving on the Lords in advance of Theresa May beginning the formal leaving process in March.

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